Phylogenetic Basis of Comparative Biology (BiSc 214)
Number of Credits: 3
Level of instruction: graduate
Comparative biology studies the distribution of biological traits
across different organisms (taxa) and the evolutionary origin of these traits.
Comparative biology has undergone, over the last decade and a half, a major
transformation. In part these changes are a result of the development of rigorous
methods to study and reconstruct evolutionary relationships among organisms. The
realization that species do not provide statistically independent data points in
comparative analyses has also resulted in a major change in the study of
comparative data. This seminar course provides a review of the current literature
on the use of phylogenetic hypotheses to study questions in evolutionary biology
and ecology. The course will study and discuss some the primary papers that laid
the foundations of phylogenetic comparative biology, as well as some case
examples from the recent literature. The focus will be on how to reconstruct and
use phylogenetic relationships to study problems such as adaptation, correlated
traits, behavior, or ecological associations. (See attached syllabus)
How often is the course offered: Fall Semester during even years.
How broad a student audience is served by the course: Graduate students from GWU
(departments of Biology, Genetics, and Anthropology) and University of Maryland
Introduction. Review of phylogenetic reconstruction.
Homology: The logical basis of Comparative Biology.
Adaptation (I): Introduction.
Adaptation (II): The 'Convergence Approach' to the study of adaptation.
Adaptation (III): The 'Homology Approach' to the study of adaptation.
Analysis of comparative data: discrete variables (I).
Analysis of comparative data: discrete variables (II).
Analysis of comparative data: continuous variables (I).
Analysis of comparative data: continuous variables (II).
Analysis of comparative data: continuous variables (III).
Phylogeny and behavior
Phylogenetic patterns of ecological associations
Recent literature on Miscellaneous Topics (I)
Term paper presentations